Day 29: Bangkok Eastern Station to Velo Thailand: The 1000 mile Journey

The final leg: Ban Phe to Bangkok

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Distance: 14km

Total: 1602.4km

Thai FOD: Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by an European country. In fact, in the Thai language, the name of the country is Prathet Thai which means “land of the free.

Everyday Randomness: on the day you end a cycling tour and you’re already missing the bike!

There was some kick off my chili soup for breakfast this morning so I was all prepped for our bus from Ban Phe to Bangkok. The journey felt like a quick enough four hours, but I suppose the snooze in the middle may have helped with that!

We were of course dreading the cycle from Bangkok bus station to Velo Thailand as it had been so grim the first time. However, I’m relieved to report that this time the commute was completed in half the time and with a lot less stress!

It’s not that we were more experienced or anything but more so the fact that the Garmin was able to navigate to Velo Thailand very easily and the traffic was so much less suffocating. In fairness in Bangkok, which I heavily critised on the first day, it obviously isn’t always horrendous to cycle there. In particular, motorists there really do respect the hand signals and are pretty obliging!

The handover to Velo Thailand was as smooth as they go so I would highly recommend them to anyone! That marked the end of our 1000 mile bike tour across three different countries, in so many different terrains and through so many varied ways of living. North Cambodia was all about the destinations and not so much the journeys. Vietnam was both, as well as being a wonderful trip down memory lane for us. Cycling in Thailand (let’s forget about Bangkok) was unexpectedly charming and excellent value! As Thailand is more developed in terms of tourism it is that bit more difficult to experience “real Thailand” so for me this aspect of the tour far exceeded my expectations!

Luckily the hostel was only 150m down the road (Back Home Backpackers) and is a great place to both relax and sample some of Bangkok’s night life! My final bit of advice is that I would highly recommend taking the local ferry in Bangkok as it is highly entertaining and extremely cheap and well serviced when compared to taxis/tuk tuks!

We’re currently here having some well needed rest and recreation:

It’s hard to know what to say at the end of such a vibrant and varied experience; just that money can’t buy a huge amount of what we saw and learned so get pedalling!

PS Currently considering a mini tour in and around Chiang Mai so stay tuned!

Day 28: Chanthaburi to Ban Phe: The Real Thailand

Chanthaburi to Ban Phe

Distance: 89.8km

Total: 1588.4km

Thai FOD: when you trip or fall, Thai people will laugh, not at you but as a way to make it fun; they do it to “save face”.

Everyday Randomness: being in the middle of a cycling sportif in Thailand!

It would be fitting that on the last full day in the saddle that it would start off raining. The rain was in fact a relief as there had been a massive thunderstorm that night! Breakfast was immense, the first buffet breakfast we’ve had this trip so I got three eggs into me for protein. The staff, as well as being amused about the general sight of us were very accommodating and gave us four free bottles of water!

Today had the most significant amount of navigation, i.e. more than 3 turns! This is due to the fact that Thailand has a very well developed road network so there are actually multiple ways to get to a place!

This meant that we were on well maintained and authentic side roads which gave us the opportunity to see how the ordinary Thai lives and not those who run guesthouses/restaurants. It turns out that it felt hugely like a Sunday at home; families gathered for food, cars lined the streets outside temples/churches and everyone with a fishing rod had it perched off any kind of bridge going!

The atmosphere was relaxed and homely, and there was a sense of pride evident in how well the football pitches and schools were maintained. The route was effortlessly varied, we cycled through every type of Asian countryside today; paddy fields, rubber trees, mangrove forests, and beaches. There was an actual cycle line just for bikes as well which was a novelty and was marked “scenic route” which was quite fitting! It was the best cycle of actual cycle touring we’ve done.

There was plenty of entertainment along the way as well as we stopped for coffee at the most quaint “bike stop” as they aptly named it. We had a chaba coffee which by taste was probably the equivalent of a flat white…it was excellent and served with a teapot of ice tea. From here we had a great vantage point at which we could watch the local sportif take place, well I hope it wasn’t a race as they were all taking it handy!

We stopped at the only village type place we came across for lunch and wow did we land on our feet. The pink noodle soup with seafood was a tasty bargain at a euro each!

From there we weren’t far from Ban Phe at all. We saw a guy pulling off the superman pose on a motorbike that must have been going at least 60km/hr, I don’t know about man of steel as it seemed pretty reckless but he definitely had nerves of steel anyways!

The last 5/6km in Ban Phe was cycling along the road beside the longest beach I’ve ever seen! It was spectacular! It went all the way into the town so we knew we wouldn’t have to track back far to get back for a dip!

The Relax Inn was ideally located at the edge of the beach and opposite the bus station. It’s a really really nice spot with friendly owners, super clean and all for €14!

Once we sorted our bus for tomorrow we went for a quick coffee which didn’t live up to the previous one but was still good and then walked along the beach at the edge of the water until the swim spot. Again the water was warm, but there was a cool breeze so it did feel a bit more natural. We lay out on the deckchairs then sipping a Chang until the onset of sunset. A brilliant afternoon, after a fittingly beautiful day of cycling!

For dinner, nightmarket wasn’t an option so we went up to a terrace on top of a hotel which served up dainty but flavoursome seafood pasta dishes! We wouldn’t usually opt for pasta (in fact I’m pretty sure ya our first time having it in Asia) but there wasn’t much choice! It was thoroughly enjoyed and we went to 7/11 for a delicious chocolate cake after which really topped it all off!

Back to Bangkok tomorrow hopefully so almost gone full circle!!!

Day 27: Trat to Chanthburi: Same Same but Different

Trat to Chanthaburi

Distance: 73.4km

Total: 1498.6km

Thai FOD: Thai people are meticulous about their appearance, often times showering twice a day and cannot understand supposedly wealthy westerns who look so shabby!

Everyday Randomness: cycling over a dead snake isn’t something one does everyday!

Would the night market also have a presence during the day? We were hoping so as there looked to be very few towns between Trat and Chanthaburi so we needed to be fed before we started!

The day market was as busy at its night version and we had a noodle soup and a coffee here for half nothing (55 baht each) as we’d say in Ireland! As we were only doing 70km today we were aiming to be in Chanthaburi for lunch and rightly so as there was nothing between the two cities. Liam did finally manage to capture some of the funny events you see over here on a daily basis:

We did manage to find a coffee stop place where the coffee was sweet and seriously good value (about 40 cent) so that just about manage to abate the hunger until about 12:30 when we located the Muslim Restaurant (it’s actual) name which was recommended by the lonely planet. Well recommend as we can attest to. The biryani  (only 50baht!!) was not exactly typical but was full of flavour without being in anyway overpowering. They made their own yogurt as well which was refreshingly light. We finished the meal by sharing an egg paratha which had the perfect hint of sweetness and was aptly filling.

The reason for the title of the post is firstly because it is a saying all over Asia it seems and one which they revel in saying, and secondly we have already been to Chanthaburi but this time we’re taking a different approach. The Hop Inn where we stayed the last time was essentially a travel lodge and was ideal for us as we had gotten in late and we were getting out early. However this time we knew we would have the whole afternoon and evening so we treated ourselves but booking a bungalow in a quiet resort with a pool. It’s still only €16 each with breakfast included and we have been spending about €4 each a night for the past few days so we probably deserve it!

The bungalow room is huge with a most luxurious couch, the pool is at a perfect temperature (colder than the see) and is literally on the bank of the river! Bliss.

Brilliantly, there is complimentary fruit here, chopped and prepared to snack on. We spent the afternoon dipping into the pool and catching up on some reading. The resort doesn’t have a restaurant so we walked down to the next one which was completely empty and had a completely Thai menu. Luckily, they had high quality photos so we literally just picked what pictured well!!

By chance we had one of the best meals of the trip! Crispy, deep fat fried chicken with fried lemongrass was delishes and light. The portions were very generous as well! The seafood hotpot with an array of vegetables was amazing. The red curry was independently hot and sweet; chilli heat followed by a soft sweetness. It was a perfect balance of flavour!

Our last full day of cycling tomorrow, it’s hard to believe it’s nearly over!